Catastrophic Injuries and Fatalities in Car Accidents

At Compass Law Group, LLP in Los Angeles, our dedicated team of car accident attorneys defends the rights of those who have been suffered from catastrophic injuries or who have lost a loved one in a California car accident. We understand the far-reaching, ongoing consequences that too often result from a negligent or reckless driver. Our goal is to defend our clients’ rights by filing lawsuits on their behalf so they can hopefully obtain the just compensation they need and deserve.

We all know that fender benders are as common in California as they are throughout the country, but it is frightening to realize that catastrophic and fatal car accidents are not as rare as we would like to think. Statistics show that, while certain types of catastrophic accidents have declined, others have increased to a remarkable degree. Let’s take a look at some of the disturbing statistics on catastrophic injuries and fatalities in California in recent years. 

graphic of man with a car


Statistics on Car Accidents in California: Catastrophic Injuries and Fatalities

The following facts, horrifying as they may be, are substantiated by statistics of reliable agencies, such as the California Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It should be noted that the majority of these accidents are deemed “avoidable.”

  • In 2017, there were nearly 500,00 car accidents in California, more than half of which resulted in injuries, a significant percentage of which were catastrophic
  • Over 37,000 people are killed in traffic accidents each year in the U.S.
  • An additional 4.4 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention
  • Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people aged 1 to 54.
  • Car accidents are the main cause of deaths related to unintentional injuries in California
  • In 2018, 3563 people died in California’s car accidents
  • In 2018, 1,069 people in California died in car accidents involving alcohol impairment
  • Forty-two percent of all drivers killed in car accidents tested positive for drugs
  • In 2018, a total of 893 pedestrian fatalities occurred in California 

Perhaps the most awful statistic of all is that most of these traffic accidents were preventable, caused by human negligence or misconduct. To realize that you might not have suffered a catastrophic injury or lost a loved one if only someone else had obeyed the law is almost unbearable. Contact Compass Law Group so that we can help you fight for some measure of justice. 


How Other Parties May Be Liable for Catastrophic Injuries or Fatalities in Car Accidents

Thousands of people sustain life-altering personal injuries or die every year in California car accidents. When parties other than the victims are at fault, as they often are, it may be that those liable were drivers who were: under the influence of alcohol or drugs (prescription or illegal), distracted, speeding, weaving, or otherwise driving recklessly. It is also possible that an entity is to blame, for example, the city, county, or state for not properly maintaining the road, or a car manufacturer for producing a car with defective brakes.


What Compass Law Will Do to Help

Whoever is liable for your injuries, Compass Law Group is here to stand by you, taking over all legal and insurance matters while you cope with your physical and emotional trauma and/or devastating loss. We are experienced, highly skilled, and have a history of successful outcomes. Though we can’t erase the effects of the catastrophic accident, we will:

  • Investigate and photograph the site of the accident and any pertinent evidence
  • Interview witnesses
  • Carefully examine police reports and medical data
  • Consult with medical and accident reconstruction experts as necessary
  • Create customized strategies for negotiations and litigation
  • Never charge you any attorneys’ fees until we win you damages
cartoon of two cars in a car accident


How We Can Assist You Even if You Were Partially at Fault for the Accident

Even if you were partly responsible for the collision, we will stand by you, arguing to minimize your percentage of the fault so that you can receive maximum damages. Fortunately, California law follows the principle of pure comparative negligence, so that even if you are found to be more than 50 percent liable for the accident, you are entitled to a fair percentage of the settlement. For instance, if the court awards you $1,000,000 in damages, but the court, after weighing the evidence, deems you 60 percent responsible for the crash, you will still receive $400,000.


What should be done after a catastrophic car accident in California?

Several steps must be taken after a serious traffic accident in California. Of course, if you are the victim of a catastrophic injury, this duty will likely fall to the law enforcement officials at the scene or to a person assisting you.

  • Report any accident involving injuries, death, or property damage over $1,000 to the local police department or the California Highway Patrol within 24 hours, and to the California DMV within 10 days. The accident should also be reported to your insurance company. If you or a loved one has been catastrophically injured, you should be aware that in California there is a 2-year statute of limitations in effect for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Record the other driver’s information, including full name, contact information, insurance company and policy number, driver’s license, and license plate number.
  • Exchange contact information with any witnesses 
  • Do not admit fault


Whether you are the victim or a friend or relative of the victim, do not apologize or say you (or the victim) did anything wrong until you have spoken to one of our knowledgeable car accident attorneys.

  • Do not explain, deny, or minimize injuries 

There are times when catastrophic injuries result in numbness rather than pain. In addition, victims are likely in shock and not fully alert or rational. If you are a loved one of the victim, realize that what he or she is telling you may not be accurate.

  • Whether or not you are the victim, record notes on what you believe took place

These may prove invaluable to your attorney later on when defending your rights to compensation

  • Document injuries and the accident scene with photos if possible
  • Contact a well-respected car accident attorney 


The most important takeaway here is that you should not engage in conversations about the severity of your injuries with insurance adjusters or others until you have had a chance to consult with your own attorney. At Compass Law Group, we will be able to advise you about what to say and what not to say in order to work in your own best interests.


cartoon of two cars in a car accident but from a birds eye view


Causes of Catastrophic Car Accidents in California

The causes of catastrophic car accidents in California are many and are all too familiar to those who investigate or have been victims of such disasters. These causes include:

  • Distracted driving (e.g driving while texting, adjusting dials or mirrors, eating, drinking)
  • Drunk driving or driving while impaired by (prescription or illegal) drugs 
  • Speeding, or drag racing on public roads
  • Engaging in other reckless driving, such as tailgating or weaving
  • Driving while sleepy or physically exhausted
  • Failing to yield to the right-of-way
  • Making an illegal turn or going through a red light or stop sign
  • Driving in an unfamiliar area with too little experience, especially on a highway or at night
  • Driving without regard to hazardous weather conditions (e.g. heavy rain, fog, snow, sleet, sun glare)

While driver error is the number one cause of car accidents (catastrophic or otherwise) in California, it is also possible, as noted earlier, to suffer catastrophic injuries or fatality in an accident caused by poor road maintenance or defective car parts. In such cases, our competent car accident attorneys may be able to successfully sue the city, state, county, or car manufacturer or distributor for damages.


What constitutes a catastrophic car accident injury?

An injury is defined as catastrophic when it is life-altering for the victim, resulting in a permanent disability that substantially interferes with work and daily activities, and/or shortens life expectancy. The following injuries are generally considered catastrophic:

Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Most commonly, TBIs occur when an individual’s head receives a violent blow or a jolt that bangs the brain against the bony surface of the skull. They can, however, also occur when an object pierces the skull and impacts the brain. In a car accident, a metal shard or piece of glass or plastic may penetrate the skull and cause brain damage. 


cartoon of a woman getting her bandages changed


The results of a TBI can vary greatly depending on which part of the brain is affected. A victim who has sustained a TBI may experience long-term, often permanent:

  • Cognitive deficits
  • Behavioral changes
  • Emotional illness
  • Loss of sensory abilities (e.g. sight, hearing, smell)
  • Speech difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Sleep disorders

Although some medications and prolonged therapies can facilitate some recovery, most often traumatic brain damage is permanent.


cartoon of a man being put on a stretcher


Spinal Cord Injuries

When any part of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves suffer damage in a car accident, the individual’s strength, mobility, and bodily functions can be seriously impacted. In many cases, partial or complete paralysis may occur. There are two major types of paralysis:

  • Paraplegia, in which the injury to the spine occurs in the lower spine, paralyzing the lower legs and often interfering with bladder, bowel, and sexual function
  • Quadriplegia (tetraplegia) in which the spinal cord injury occurs in the cervical region of the spine, paralyzing the body from the neck down.

Though both injuries are majorly disabling, the latter is far worse because it prevents the car accident victim from moving her or his arms as well as legs. Quadriplegics are unable to live with any measure of independence at all and, in addition to being unable to walk, must be fed, wiped, bathed, dressed, etc. Some quadriplegics are even unable to breathe on their own, requiring medical equipment to stay alive, and all require round the clock care.


Severe burn injuries

Because a car collision may ignite one or both of the vehicles’ gas tanks, car accidents victims may suffer severe burn injuries. In addition to being horrifically painful, extreme burns most often require multiple surgeries and skin grafts. Affected parts may never return to full functionality  and disfiguring scarring is almost inevitable.


Loss of limb

Victims of car accidents, particularly those not wearing seatbelts, may be thrown from the vehicle and suffer disastrous consequences, such as the loss of limb. Even limbs that are not completely severed must sometimes be amputated to save the victim’s life. Obviously, losing any limb requires a tremendous amount of readjustment in terms of coping with ordinary tasks, let alone doing anything work-related.


Internal Bleeding and Organ Damage or Loss

Terrible car accidents frequently result in deep, extensive lacerations. They may also result in hemorrhage, either from external wounds or within the body. Lost organs also occur. Losing tremendous quantities of blood may be fatal, and loss of an organ, such as a kidney, spleen, lung or part of the digestive tract may, even if the patient survives, greatly restrict your activities, cause you ongoing pain, and shorten your lifespan.  



In many situations, victims of catastrophic injuries die at the scene or shortly thereafter. Some patients linger through painful surgeries only to pass away from related causes, such as bacterial infections. Beyond the awful emotional loss to close family members, a death may threaten the financial stability of loved ones who have to go on without a significant (or sometimes the solo) wage earner. In such cases, Compass Law Group is here to help your family by filing a wrongful death suit to provide you with the damages you all require to survive comfortably.


cartoon of a person changing a flat tire


Victims Catastrophically Injured by Another’s Negligence Deserve Substantial Damages

When another party’s negligence is to blame for your catastrophic injuries or for the death of a loved one, the law entitles you to the substantial damages necessary to allow you to return to a workable, albeit gravely altered, lifestyle. 

We take our job as Compass Law Group car accident attorneys very seriously and will fight to protect you and your family with all of our skill and strength. Depending on what type of injury and prognosis you have or whether your case involves a wrongful death, we will develop a strategy tailored to your needs. Our goal is to obtain whichever of the following damages apply in your unique case:


A list of economic vs noneconomic damages


In cases of wrongful death, we will seek damages for medical costs, funeral costs, loss of financial and emotional support.

cartoon of two people arguing


Punitive Damages

If the defendant behaved in an especially egregious manner, for example, driving while under the influence of drugs or while trying to escape the police, our lawyers may also be able to obtain punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are designed both to punish the responsible party and to dissuade other drivers from imitating such abhorrent behavior.


Contact Compass Law Group Today for Aggressive Representation 

At Compass Law Group, our excellent attorneys are well aware that even the word “catastrophic” cannot begin to describe the depth of the disaster you and your family are going through. Nonetheless, though we cannot undo the physical and/or emotional stress you face, we may well be able to provide you with the financial means to shape a secure future. 

Our team has the legal leverage to sway the judge or jury to your side. We will use a combination of proven and innovative tactics to fight for your rights, and will always treat you with the respect and compassion that is our trademark.

Contact us online or call (310) 289-7126 for a free consultation, we will discuss your case and help you immediately.

Skip to content